Sri Lanka ex-army chief vows to unseat government

Sri Lanka's former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who was released from jail last month, renewed his fight with President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday with a call to defeat his "corrupt" government.

Fonseka led troops to victory over Tamil rebels in 2009, ending decades of ethnic war on the island, but he then fell out with Rajapakse and made a failed bid to unseat him in 2010 elections.

Shortly after his defeat, he was jailed for more than two years on what his supporters view as trumped up charges of "irregularities in military procurements". Rajapakse ordered his surprise early release on May 21.

Addressing his first news conference since then, Fonseka said that opposition political parties needed to unite against the president, whose three brothers and son are seen as controlling the government.

"Leadership battles have weakened the opposition. My party will join forces with those who want to change this corrupt political culture. The leadership can be decided by the people," Fonseka said.

"We have to topple this corrupt government at the next election. We have no short cuts. No military coups," he told reporters.

Earlier, the government had accused Fonseka of trying to stage a coup to seize power in 2010.

He originally clashed with Rajapakse over who should take credit for the military success over the Tamil Tiger rebels in a military onslaught dogged by persistent allegations of war crimes.

Fonseka had angered the government by saying that he was ready to face any international investigation into claims by rights groups that up to 40,000 civilians were killed by troops in the final months of fighting.

"Even now, I say that I will go before any investigation to clear the name of my troops," Fonseka said.

He discounted local media speculation that his release was the result of a political deal with the government and that he would join the ruling party.

The government has not explained the pardon, but Fonseka told AFP immediately after his release that Rajapakse was under international diplomatic pressure.

"The international community was with me. They never accepted the treatment meted out to me," he said.


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